Northern Ireland

Gun licensing system costing taxpayers £300k per year

Gun shop

Firearms licensing in Northern Ireland has cost the public £880,000 in the last three years according to a new audit report.

The report found a "public subsidy" of about £300,000 per year has been needed as gun licensing has cost more than it has brought in.

In 2015, figures by the Department of Justice showed the gun licence system cost an extra £1m per year.

The PSNI is responsible for managing gun licences.

The latest report, compiled by the comptroller and auditor general Kieran Donnelly, showed that the PSNI spend £1.6m per year on the licensing system but that it only recovers £1.3m per year.

The report said there was "no clear plan" to make up the shortfall in the "foreseeable future" and that "full cost recovery should be achieved".

Image caption SDLP MLA John Dallat said gun licences should be "self-financing"

The report also showed that there are more than 57,000 registered firearms holders in Northern Ireland and 86 firearms dealers.

SDLP MLA John Dallat said that firearms licensing should be "self-financing" and the financial shortfall could be "better channelled into other services such as health and education".

He said the numbers of licenses issued means that "a full recovery of costs is not unreasonable and should be achieved as quickly as possible".

Mr Donnelly's report also indicated that there had been a "significant backlog" in the system, with 2,485 applications waiting to be processed in February 2018.

It noted that the backlog was largely cleared by July.

Mr Dallat said that it is "imperative that applications are processed much more quickly and without an unacceptable burden on the public purse".

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